Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Packing for a European Vacation: Part One

 by Sheila

Not all those that wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

These are the shoes, carry-on and tote/purse I have taken recently for summer travel.

 Our friend Kathy, is heading off to Europe this summer for a sightseeing vacation.  We were discussing what she should pack, and that conversation led to writing this post.  My focus is to be appropriately and comfortably dressed to do a whirlwind tour where you are schlepping your own bags in and out of trains, planes, hotels, cabs, subways and even up and over the Rialto bridge in Venice.   This means that you need to have what you need, but not a lot of excess.  Summer trips are easier to pack for because the lighter weight clothing is less bulky, and you generally don't need as many warm layers or heavy footwear.  Layers, however are still key to having what you need and being comfortable.
I am coveting this perfect size Tumi bag - love it!  Photos taken at Travel Outfitters in Chandler Arizona; you can also check them out online at
Start your planning with what you are going to wear on the trip "over the pond".  Ideally with the time change, you will be able to get some shut-eye on the flight over.  Dress comfortably, but please no pajama  pants and slippers! Remember that airplanes are frequently cool.  I recommend a flattering pair of yoga-type black stretch pants or a long knit skirt with several layers on top.  I like a tank with a built-in bra (who wants to sleep in a bra?), a warm sweater and a large scarf that can be used as an extra layer of warmth and a flattering pop of color.  This outfit is also nice to wear relaxing in your hotel room at the end of a long day.  Be sure that whatever you choose, it will be something that you will be able to mix and match with your other garments on your trip. Besides your closet and your favorite stores, check out Eddie Bauer and REI for specialty travel clothing and bags.

Comfortable fleece sweater - great for the flight!
Another cool Baggalini bag I'd like...

The next most difficult decision is what shoes to bring.  If you are sightseeing, you are doing lots of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must!  For summer, I like a pair of walking sandals and fortunately, there are many great styles available.  Be prepared to spend some money, but the payoff will be happy feet at the end of the day.  Buy your shoes weeks in advance and wear them at home to break them in. You don't want to find out that they give you a blister on the first day of your trip.  Bring another comfortable pair of shoes that will coordinate with your clothes, so you can interchange them.  There are a variety of attractive, comfortable walking shoes available, such as a comfy clog or sleek, sporty walker or mule.  I like the Walking Company Store and brands like Naot, Dansko, Ecco, Mephisto and Josef Seibel. Depending on the weather and your wardrobe, this also might be a second pair of sandals in a fun color.  If it is very warm, I wear skirts more than pants, and sandals can go with either one.  If you want to be noticed right off the bat as an American tourist, wear white athletic shoes and Bermuda shorts with a T-shirt everywhere!


Some great options for comfortable footwear.  Photos taken at Nordstrom and The Walking Company. 

You will need to plan your carry-on bag carefully as well, especially if you are traveling  in coach, and let's face it, most of us are.  Check out my post on this at  Pack for Travel; Your Carry-On Bag.  In addition, I highly recommend a supportive neck pillow, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand cream, lip balm, and a hairbrush.  I like the blow-up neck pillows because they deflate and travel easily with you.  Some people like eye sleeping masks as well, but they irritate me.  I also like to have my guidebook(s) with me to peruse on the way.  I tried digital travel books, but found that I prefer a real book for this sort of reference.  Look at several to decide which covers the type of information you are most interested in.  I admit to liking guidebooks with lots of pictures, so that when I stumble onto Notre Dame, I recognize it.  You might also want to invest in a travel wallet that you keep your passport, ticket and hotel information in.  Many European hotels will ask you for your passport at check-in.  This is common practice and quite safe.  Don't wait for the last minute to apply for that passport!
Love this carry-on!
Next, you need to make sure your suitcase and carry-on tote will work for you.  My suitcase is a 23" x 14" Travelpro.  Costco's Kirkland case is a very good option also.  Both of these will fit in an overhead bin.  I caution you not to go too large.  This becomes unwieldy quickly!  Sometimes my carry-on is the same bag that I use for my sightseeing tote bag (guidebook, water, camera, etc.), but not usually.  I prefer a smaller tote/purse and will usually pack this in my suitcase for the trip over.  I think a cross-body style makes you less of a target for thieves, but I have never had a problem either way.  Baggallini makes great options and I love Hobo bags as well.  Think about what you want to take with you all day and make sure this fits in comfortably and doesn't cause you neck or shoulder strain!  Some people like a backpack, but I don't like the look, and I don't like all of my belongings where everyone except me can see them.  Frequent travelers also recommend a waist or neck wallet that you keep your extra money and ID in like the one pictured here:
A safe waist wallet.
My suitcase and carry-on with shoulder tote/purse packed inside; ready to roll!

Okay, you have your travel outfit together, you have your comfy shoes broken in, your carry-on packed and your suitcase out.  Check in next Wednesday for some suggestions for clothing to put in that bag.  In the meantime, start perusing those guidebooks and practicing your Italian!  Ciao!

*Special thanks to Janet Brown (Mom) for photos!

*Other travel-related posts that may interest you:
Pack Your Bags: Toiletries & TSA
Travel Tips for the Holidays


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